Equity and Flexibility in Lifelong Learning

23 Feb 2022
Ecem Akarca, EU Projects Officer, explores the issues of educational equity, flexibility in adult learning and overcoming the challenges of COVID-19.

The AONTAS Lifelong Learning Conference, held online on 24th November 2021, resulted in some key learnings for the adult learning sector. Marking the end of the European Agenda for Adult Learning Project “Adult and Community Education: Supported Learner Pathways” (2020-2021), the event included a diversity of adult learners, experts and academics, with 75 attendees engaging from across Ireland and Europe.

Lifelong Learning
Key learnings for the adult learning sector:

Dr Niamh O’Reilly, AONTAS CEO, spoke about the importance of EU education policy in setting a framework for educational equity and standards in the Irish and European education systems. Dr O’Reilly argued that it “sets the bar in terms of participation levels”, and this is necessary for all adults to be able to engage in adult learning.

Keynote speaker Professor Ellen Boeren encouraged participants to consider four key statements in their future work:

Inequalities in adult education follow on from inequalities earlier in life

Workplaces generate unequal access to adult education

Educational institutions can generate their own barriers

Countries have power to decrease barriers to participation through activities such as active labour market policies and social market measures


The panel’s key message was that to ensure a fair, equitable, inclusive and anti-racist adult learning sector, we must grow and work together. This means both listening to and acting on the needs and experiences of all learners.

The panel included representatives from a diversity of communities in the adult learning sector:

 This event was part of AONTAS' 2020-2021 project 'Adult and Community Education: Supported Learner Pathways' as part of the European Agenda for Adult Learning.

If you would like to get involved with our EAAL project, please get in touch with Ecem at